By Jordan Upton
The start of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. For children who have experienced personal trauma - like those in foster care who have been removed from their home and biological families - starting a new school may cause or worsen existing anxiety.
The goal for parents is to be supportive without increasing their child’s stress. Some tips for dealing with back to school anxiety:
Listen to and Don’t Dismiss Their Worries
Worries are common but listen to them seriously. Rather than saying “There’s nothing to worry about”, acknowledging your child’s fears will help them feel more secure. Taking them seriously will help your child trust and feel comfortable talking with you over future issues.
If your child has very specific worries, like forgetting their lunchbox or homework, work out a plan ahead of time for how you will solve it. Make sure they know who to contact if something goes wrong.
Prepare and Practice
If possible, take your child to the school before the first day. Let them walk around, find their classroom, get comfortable with this new setting. Practice driving to the drop-off or bus stop. If available, attend open house events where your child can meet their teacher and principal in advance of the first day.
Focus on the Positives
Ask your child what they’re excited about at school; even if it’s just recess or snack time, it’s a start. Focus on the fun parts of their day to distract them from anxieties. Find things to praise - going a certain amount of days without calling home, being prepared (not forgetting their backpack or lunchbox), good grades - that will encourage them and boost their confidence about attending school.
Pay Attention to Your Attitude and Behavior
If you are stressed or upset, your child will be able to tell. Be careful what you say and do as children look to you as a model.